The Straits Times reports that Asia’s top rice producers are suffering from a drought that threatens to cut output and boost prices of a staple for half the world’s population. A heatwave is sweeping top rice exporter India, while the second supplier Thailand is facing a second year of drought. Swathes of farmland in Vietnam, the third-biggest supplier, are also parched as irrigation fed by the Mekong river runs dry.
In another article we read that a small town of 60,000 people in western Odisha’s Bolangir district, Titlagarh is reeling under a blistering heatwave. The mercury touched 48.5 degrees Celsius on Sunday, the highest April temperature ever recorded in the state. This has triggered a water crisis in the town with long queues, frayed tempers and fights near supply taps and tankers. A junior engineer of the public health department was roughed up recently over a water tanker turning up late.
The town gets its water from the Tel river but that is hardly adequate – as the town sits on a rocky bed, groundwater is difficult to draw. Saroj Mishra, a resident of Titlagarh said that the groundwater level has been falling over the years.
In an article on the popular Hindi news site ABP Live Devinder Sharma adds:
“It has now become even more obvious than before that the world we are living in has changed profoundly in the last five years. Every passing year is turning out to be hotter than the previous. It is just the middle of April but vast tracts of India are reeling under scorching heat with temperatures zipping past the 40 degrees mark. In 13 States, April temperature is higher by 8 degrees from the average . . .
The relatively well-off in the cities, towns and suburbs have the facility to switch on an air-conditioner or an air-cooler but imagine the plight of majority population who have no other option but to survive under shade, be it at home or under the tree”.
“This will only intensify, as the season warms up. This is just the beginning of the summer months. In the next three months, before the monsoons set in, the heat wave is going to deadly. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted that the summer months this year will be warmer than normal . . . I don’t know why the IMD uses the word ‘warmer’ to describe sweltering heat conditions but shooting mercury has already taken a death toll of 130. If this is ‘warmer’ by IMD definition, I shudder to think what it would mean if it were to use the word ‘hotter’ instead?
“Last year, 1,500 deaths from heat wave were reported from Andhra Pradesh alone.
”If you thought January was unusually warm this year, let it be known that February was still warmer. Globally, February 2016 was the hottest month known based on the long-term averages drawn. NASA had used the word ‘shocker’ to describe the unprecedented warming it measured for the month of February and warned of a ‘climate emergency’. The average global temperatures in February were higher by 1.35 degree C. In India too, February was unusually warm this year with average temperature hike fluctuating between 1.5 degree and 2 degree.
”But March has now turned to be the hottest. As per the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) March has ‘smashed’ all previous records. Data compiled by Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) shows that the March temperature was higher by 1.07 degree, based on an average since 1891. Data released by NASA also shows that March temperatures has beaten the past 100-years record.
”We are now in mid-April and I can already feel the average temperatures creeping up.
“While we can survive, my thoughts go out to the 700 million people reeling under two consecutive years of drought. With wells almost dry and walking on a parched land they will now have to confront an unkindly hot sun. Some reports say wells have dried to a level in Marathwada not seen in past 100 years. Another report tells us that 133 rivers have dried in Jharkhand”.
And in a later article he itemises damaging development projects focuses on “the absence of environmental protection in the model of economic growth that is being overzealously pursued” adding, “I have never understood why policy makers should not be insisting on integrating environment with economic growth.”
Next week, there will be some news of positive measures to address or alleviate the water shortage in India.